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Rocket glitch fixed, Russia launches satellite to enhance military communications

Russia successfully launched a military communications satellite into orbit Thursday (Feb. 20). The launch took place about one month later than planned due to a technical issue.

A Soyuz-2.1a rocket blasted off at 3:24 a.m. EST (0824 GMT or 11:24 a.m. Moscow time) from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia, according to Russian space agency Roscosmos.

"The launch of the launch vehicle, and the launch of the satellite into the calculated orbit, took place as usual," Roscosmos said in a statement, which was translated into English using translation software. 

Video: Russia launches military satellite atop Soyuz rocket
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A Russian Soyuz-2.1a rocket launches the Meridian M communications satellite from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia, on Feb. 20, 2020. (Image credit: Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)

Ground controllers have received telemetry (or data) from the deployed spacecraft, which is called Meridian M, showing that the spacecraft is working normally so far, Roscosmos said.

The rocket was supposed to lift off on Jan. 24, but the launch was delayed due to a technical problem in the Soyuz's third stage, according to Chinese space media Xinhua. "The Soyuz-2 rocket had to be removed from the launch pad and returned to the assembly and testing facility to fix the problem," Xinhua said.

Meridian M is supposed to help ships and reconnaissance aircraft communicate along the northern sea region of Russia, as well as help expand satellite communications stations in more remote regions in Siberia and the Far East, Roscosmos added.

This is the first Soyuz-2 rocket family launch of 2020 from Plesetsk. In late December, a Rockot booster converted from an intercontinental ballistic missile successfully launched from Plesetsk, with three Gonets-M communications satellites on board. Rockot may also have carried a military payload, called Blits-M, that is meant to reflect lasers, according to industry-monitoring website

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook


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Elizabeth Howell

Elizabeth Howell is a contributing writer for who is one of the few Canadian journalists to report regularly on space exploration. She is the author or co-author of several books on space exploration. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. from the University of North Dakota in Space Studies, and an M.Sc. from the same department. She also holds a bachelor of journalism degree from Carleton University in Canada, where she began her space-writing career in 2004. Besides writing, Elizabeth teaches communications at the university and community college level, and for government training schools. To see her latest projects, follow Elizabeth on Twitter at @howellspace.